Healthy Snacks When You're on the Go
Sticking to a regular meal and snack schedule can help prevent hunger-related meltdowns, even when you’re away from the house. If you know you’re going to be out and about when snack time hits, your best option is to plan ahead with some drinks and food packed in a bag or cooler. But if plans change, or you don’t have a chance to pack snacks ahead of time, get tips for what to buy and what to skip when you’re away from home.
What drinks should you pack?
Water is always the best and easiest option to pair with a snack— and it doesn’t require an ice pack. Offering juice, soda or other sugary drinks can fill your child up, leaving less room for nutritious foods at meal and snack time. Plus, juice has as much sugar as soda and can cause tooth decay.
Tip: Pack a few mini (8- or 10-oz.) water bottles in a bag or cooler, or let your child choose their own reusable water bottle to drink from.
What snacks should you pack?
It can be hard to find healthy snacks away from home. Try packing a few of these items in a bag or a small cooler before you leave. There’s something here for everyone—from toddlers to adults and everyone in between.
- Bananas, mandarin oranges, apples, sliced peaches or grapes (cut in quarters for young children). These are all great options that can be left out of the fridge for a couple hours.
- A small container of plain toasted oats cereal or crackers.
- A cheese stick.
- Individual containers of unsweetened applesauce or diced fruit (look for the fruit cups packed in water or 100% fruit juice, not syrup).
- Freeze-dried fruits or veggies. Be sure to choose options where the only ingredients are veggies and fruits, and you don’t see sugar or juice listed on the ingredients label.
- A a nut butter and banana sandwich or a turkey and cheese rollup.
- Clean up supplies, such as wipes, napkins, bibs (for the little ones) and a paper or plastic bag for trash.
Tip: We know there may not always be time to pack a snack. If you need to buy something from the store, the American Heart Association recommends no added sugar for babies under the age of 2 and total sodium for the entire day under 1,500 mg, so pick snacks with the lowest amounts whenever possible.
Buying snacks at the gas station
If you’re on the road and need a quick snack break , look for gas stations that are also “travel centers,” as they usually have more options. Gas stations that are attached to fast-food restaurants may also provide more options for everyone in the family. Here are some options to look for:
- Fresh fruit, such as bananas and apples.
- Snack packs that come with some protein and carbohydrates, such as cheese, nut and cracker packs that can be found in the fridge section.
- Crackers, goldfish crackers or plain graham crackers.
- Hard-boiled eggs (yes, we’ve seen them!).
- Water or plain, unflavored milk.
Cereal bars and fig bars are loaded with sugar, but if you have no alternative, choose them instead of chips, donuts or other packaged snacks.
Finding healthy snacks at an event
More and more public places are stocking quick and easy healthy snacks. If you’re at an event or visiting a public attraction, research some nearby healthy options before your trip. Look for ones that may have “kids meals,” like fast-food restaurants, as they’re more likely to also sell sides of fruit, milk, etc.
If you’re at the ballpark for older kids’ sporting events, your best bet is going to be fruit or even a hot pretzel. And, as always, remember that water is the best drink option.
Letting kids eat in the car can be a choking hazard. If eating in the car can’t be avoided, be mindful of your child’s developmental stage and use caution when offering dry snacks, sticky foods, and sharp or round items.